Last week, I was very pleased to meet a group of care experienced young people who are undertaking apprenticeships with Warwickshire County Council. I was so inspired by their thoughtfulness and determination.
As Children’s Commissioner, I am constantly speaking to different groups of children and young people across the country to understand what they want to improve and how I can support them to pursue their dreams and thrive.
I am dedicated to hearing from all children, but I am particularly interested in hearing from children who are currently in the care system, for example living in foster care or in a children’s home, and also those who have recently left the care system.
I recently published my vision for children leaving care. It briefly outlines all of the different kinds of support that I want this group to have access to when they are leaving care at 18 years old. This includes access to good employment and I have previously written about the challenges that care experienced young people have entering the world of work.
I believe there is an important role for local government to continue to support young people leaving care with their careers. I was delighted to hear what Warwickshire County Council are doing with their local offer to care experienced young people, including ringfencing places up to 10 apprentices just like the ones that I met. I have previously written about what I’ve heard from children on their desire to learn more about apprenticeships and vocational routes into a great career.
I want to see every care experienced young person able to pursue their ambitions, whether that’s an apprenticeship, further education, university or entering employment. I also want to make sure that all the practical and emotional support is in place to enable that to happen. For example, I have proposed that the financial support that children leaving care receive while they are working on their apprenticeship should extend throughout their entire apprenticeship.
I am aware that those children with experience of the care system are the experts in knowing what support they need and how things should change. That’s why next year I will be launching a Care Experienced Advisory Board, to harness the insight, ambition, and expertise of care experienced young people and to make sure my work is directly informed by them.
I would like to thank all of the young people for all that they shared with me – they are the real experts in what support young people value the most, and it is vital that those making decisions take the time to listen to them.